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CHALLENGE: The part played by housing production is critical for sustainability.Affordable housing is a serious issue affecting both house buyers and renters. The fundamentals of the way we produce housing must change if affordability is to be redressed.
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The term sustainability is increasingly being used to describe positive and negative actions and behaviour of ns for their use of energy and attitudes in regard to waste and unwanted off-gases. A key role in sustainability is played by housing, where, while considerations of energy use are important, issues of sustainability also include cost (affordability) and time (productivity). Both these factors affect availability of suitable housing.

Sustainable development is defined by the United Nations as, “development which meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In particular this opinion seeks to address sustainability of housing in , or rather its characteristics of unsustainability. I was reminded recently by an expert who assesses energy use in buildings that housing does not use energy, it is the occupants who need to accept responsibility. However, there are also important issues for how houses are produced to enable efficient use of energy.

Research has found that housing accounts for 25 per cent of total global energy use. A Human Settlements report in 2001 found that while the population increased in between 1975 and 2001 by 35 per cent, the use of energy by the residential sector increased by 60 per cent. Further, housing produces 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases. There is clear evidence that current construction methods are unable to mitigate these poor outcomes without innovation and change.

Building construction alone generates up to 30 per centof all wastes sent to land fill. Typically up to 30 per centof labour and materials for housing construction is wasted through reworking or changes during the works. Unfortunately, constraints for the average suburban house site prevent the waste from construction being separated into streams for recovery and recycling.

The cost of construction continues to rise, and worse, there is a high level of uncertainty as to the final cost, often higher than initial budgets. This is a serious situation for housing demonstrated by a measure of housing affordability, that being average cost compared with average annual wage. In in 1990 the ratio for average housing purchase price compared to average gross income was 3 to 1, in 2015 it was 5 to 1 (In Sydney it is 12:1). In a recent report, the cost of housing put sixth behind UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Hong Kong and Sweden. There are reasons why this unacceptable situation cannot change, a shortage of skilled trades is one of them, and reluctance by industry and consumers to consider non-traditional production of housing is another. For example, industries supplying cars and clothing have changed from a craft to a manufacturing industry thereby producing products that are readily available and affordable.

There is an opportunity for the community to help addressthe challenges outlined here by agreeing to a one-hour interview covering housing choice and sustainability. Preferred participants are those who are soon to make a new-build housing choice but have not yet made a final decision.

This research is being carried out through the University of Newcastle by Edward Duc as a candidate for a PhD. Prospective interviewees can offer to participate by emailing [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au

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